Giant layoffs include WCB claimants
Union calls move unfortunate but necessary

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 10/99) - Robert Crews said his Feb. 1 termination did more than end his 19-year career with Royal Oak Mines Inc. -- it left him with a bad taste in his mouth and lingering questions.

But one union representative called Crews' termination, and that of nine other disabled employees on Workers' Compensation, an unfortunate necessity.

Crews was one of approximately 20 Giant Mine employees who received buyout packages and/or termination notices Feb. 1.

But speaking by telephone Tuesday, Crews said he took exception to union comments that employees would have to make the decision based on their own situations.

Moreover, Crews said the phrase "carefully considered" was written in the Feb. 1 termination notice he signed to receive a $15,000-RRSP "severance allowance." Crews said that ultimately the termination was a done-deal and he was allowed no input but to choose between termination and the severance or termination and nothing.

"There was no 'consideration' and no 'carefully' anything," he said.

Steve Peterson a representative of Canadian Auto Workers Local 2304 said Wednesday that while the company made the termination selection, the union understood the importance of preserving the jobs of the approximately 175 remaining workers.

"The union is being put in an awkward situation here, but it's better than going into the active workforce," he said. "I feel it is a bit of a snub to people who've been hurt on the job...but (targeting injured workers) is obviously not company policy."

Peterson said that of the 10 terminations affecting clients on compensation, only the three current NWT residents received settlements. He said the Workers' Compensation Board confirmed for him that the company was acting within its rights.

Contacted Wednesday, the WCB said there is no NWT legislation that requires an employer to hire back an injured worker. But the WCB also said workers' entitlement to such programs as the WCB Vocational Rehabilitation training program is not affected by such layoffs. Crews is currently involved in training in the field of accounting.

The actual conditions of Crews' termination remain slightly ambiguous. Though he signed a termination notice, Peterson said the workers have been, "laid off due to work shortage," and will be eligible for Employment Insurance.

Crews remains unsatisfied with the process and his treatment, however. He said he suspects backroom dealings between the company and the union and plans to pursue the matter further.